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The termination of parental rights in Arizona, as in all states, can be either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary termination is generally straightforward: if either or both birth parents wish to relinquish their parental rights to the child, legal documents are signed and the child is either appointed a guardian or placed in the legal custody of another individual or an authorized agency.
Involuntary termination must be petitioned for and then decided by the courts, who must determine that the parent(s) is/are unfit, or that severing the relationship is in the best interest of the child (i.e. for reasons of safety and health). In either case, several determining factors must be considered, including, but not limited to:
Even in extreme circumstances, Arizona parental rights laws dictate that the State must first have exhausted all other placement, treatment, and corrective options before settling on the termination of parental rights in Arizona. During the proceedings, if the parent(s) being considered for termination do not appear in court, it is considered an admission of guilt and the termination most likely will be enacted (A.R.S. § 8-863(C)).
Under certain circumstances, parental rights in Arizona may be reinstated. For example, if the child is in state care and doesn’t get placed in a reasonable amount of time, the parent can petition to reinstate their parental rights as long as they can prove a safe environment will be provided. Termination of parental rights in Arizona may also only apply to one parent, annulling the possibility for adoption as the child remains in the unaffected parent’s care.
Adoption post-divorce may only take place if the above termination of rights is approved. Generally, another family member such as a stepparent or grandparent adopts the child in question. Adoption within the family is often a simple procedure, as long as the biological parent’s consent to the termination of their parental rights and, ultimately, the adoption. Courts are generally more inclined to place children with relatives than they are to sever ties and place them in foster care.
Adoptions of children already relinquished to the foster care system have drastically different mitigating factors, but the common thread is the termination of parental rights: without it, a legal adoption cannot occur. In any adoption case, there is often a period of supervision of the prospective adoptive parents by a professional. During or after this period, if the case worker approves of the adoption, he or she will motion for the prospective parents to take over the parental rights of the child in question. However, while the biological parents must have agreed to terminate their parental rights in Arizona in order to trigger the adoption process, the termination itself is not finalized until the adoption has been granted by the case worker/State.
The legal factors surrounding the termination of parental rights and adoption are exceptionally complex and detailed. Craig Simon is an Arizona attorney with 30 years’ experience in family law, and as the founder of Simon Law Group of AZ, he and his skilled team can streamline and clarify each process. For 24 hour professional legal assistance, or to set up a free consultation with a Simon Law Group family attorney in Phoenix, please call 480-745-2450 or Contact Our Firm.